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Do Lawyers Know What a Client Wants?

I saw something whilst I was out shopping recently which made me think about how lawyers are perceived in society and the importance of putting yourself in the client’s shoes when carrying out instructions.

I was browsing in discount bookshop The Works when I noticed an elderly couple next to me. The (I presume) wife, was picking up book after book off the shelf and tilting the front cover in her (I presume) husbands direction for judgment. This was given by a subtle movement of the head or flick of the eyebrows, a code clearly established over many years but each time resulting in the book being returned to the shelf.

Suddenly the lady found a book she considered worthy of comment; “He wanted a good ‘idin’”, she exclaimed and his somber nod suggested complete agreement. As surreptitiously as possible (probably completely obviously), I craned my neck and glanced at the cover through the corner of my eye. “The Worlds Evilest Men” I think was the title, read between fingers and a black and white close up of Adolf Hitler leered back at me.  

That might be considered by some to be a little bit of an understatement but I managed to suppress a laugh. I set about trying to locate Clare (my fiancée who was also in there somewhere) to report events. I hadn’t gotten far when I heard the lady say, “Them lot should all be shot!” I turned just in time to see the same heavy nod of approval and I noticed she was now holding a different book. I had to see who warranted the firing squad, when the Herr Hitler would have received no more than a tanned hide. So again using my James Bondesque snooping skills I scanned the latest cover: a biography of Sir John Mortimer QC.

This time I couldn’t contain a little burst of laughter, drawing their synchronized glares. I made a sharp exit before they smelt lawyer on me but the episode was still making me smile later that evening and I got to thinking that they must have had a really terrible experience to have such a view of lawyers. However, that does not necessarily mean that they achieved a bad result.

When you do the job day in, day out it is perhaps easy to concentrate on the legal complexities and to lose sight of how a client perceives their case. The type of work that I do – general civil/commercial litigation – is about damage limitation, as even a completely successful outcome at a final trial, will involve an element of unrecoverable legal costs and untold stress and personal time expended, so the client needs to understand what they are getting into from the outset.

In my view the key to a successful client relationship is putting yourself in their shoes. If I was going to see a solicitor for the first time, or even if as a business person I had semi-regular contact with a legal team, what would I want? I would want to know; what are my chances and with that is mind what’s the quickest and cheapest way of resolving things, maximizing my recovery/minimizing the amount I have to pay.

Lanyon Bowdler is committed not just to performing to a high standard legally – that is a given – but also to handling a case, how the client wants it to be handled. If a client wants reassurance and explanation at every turn, that is provided. If a client wants me to get on a do what is necessary with minimal recourse to them, that is provided also.

I could go on and on about this because it is something I consider to be a crucial importance but in a nutshell, it’s about providing a tailor-made service, individual to each client, to ensure that every client goes away having achieved a good result and feeling that they got value for money. If that can be done then perhaps the poor Sir John will be looked on more favourably in the future.    

If you have any questions, or would simply like some advice you can call me on 01743 280280 or email me at andrew.pegg@lblaw.co.uk.